Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)
Gadgil Commission also known as The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Madhav Gadgil was formed by MoEF in 2010 to study the impact of population pressure, climate change and development activities on the Western Ghats.
The Panel was asked to perform the following functions:
- To assess the current status of ecology of the Western Ghats region.
- To demarcate areas within the Western Ghats Region which need to be notified as ecologically sensitive and to recommend for notification of such areas as ecologically sensitive zones under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. In doing so, the Panel shall review the existing reports such as the Mohan Ram Committee Report, Hon’ble Supreme Court’s decisions, recommendations of the National Board for Wildlife and consult all concerned State Governments.
- To make recommendations for the conservation, protection and rejuvenation of the Western Ghats Region following a comprehensive consultation process involving people and Governments of all the concerned States.
- To suggest measures for effective implementation of the notifications issued by the Government of India in the Ministry of Environment and Forests declaring specific areas in the Western Ghats Region as eco-sensitive zones under the Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986.
- To recommend the modalities for the establishment of Western Ghats Ecology Authority under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which will be a professional body to manage the ecology of the region and to ensure its sustainable development
with the support of all concerned states.
- To deal with any other relevant environment and ecological issues pertaining to Western Ghats Region, including those which may be referred to it by the Central Government in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- The Ministry has subsequently asked the Panel to include in its mandate (a) the entire stretch of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, including the coastal region, and to specifically examine the (b) Gundia and (c) Athirappilly Hydroelectric projects. (d)recommendations with regard to the moratorium on new mining licenses in Goa.
Recommendations of Madhav Gadgil Panel
The Madhav Gadgil Panel recommendations can be summarized in the following:
- Turn entire Western Ghats region into an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA); it should be called Western Ghats ESA. This area should be divided into two parts:
- Protected areas which would contain Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks
- Three Ecological Sensitive Zones (ESZ) viz. ESZ-1, ESZ-2 and ESZ-3, with varying degrees of protection. These are outside the existing protected areas.
- Divide the entire Western Ghats ESA into 2200 grids and each grid assigned ESZ on the basis of composite scores of ecological significance derived from the database generated by WGEEP.
- Since Western Ghats is spread in six states, treat Western Ghats regions of each state separately.
- Final demarcation of the ESZs and the final regulatory regime should be based on extensive inputs from local communities and local bodies viz. Gram Panchayats, Taluk Panchayats, Zill Parishats, and Nagar Palikas, under the overall supervision of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), State level Ecology Authorities and the District Ecology Committees.
- A Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA) should be established as a statutory authority appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, GOI under Environment (Protection) Act 1986 to focus on promoting transparency, openness and participation in every way for development and sustainability of these areas.
- The panel recommended highest degree of protection in ESZ-1 and ESZ-2 categories. It recommended that the government should put
- An indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in ESZ-1 and ESZ-2
- Phasing out of mining from ESZ-1 by 2015
- Continuation of existing mining in ESZ-2 under strict regulation with an effective system of social audit.
- In ESA-1 and ESA-2, no new red and orange category industries should be allowed.
- Development plans should not be cast in a rigid framework, but ought to be tailored to prevalent locality and time specific conditions with full participation of local communities; a process that has been termed adaptive co-management.
- Ecological sensitivity is not merely a scientific, but very much a human concern. In particular, a great deal of locality specific understanding of what has been happening and what is desirable, is simply not part of any scientific databases and resides with local communities. Hence, set of regulations tailored to the needs of the locality should be put in place if the area were to be formally declared as being ecologically sensitive
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